A New Chapter
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos courtesy of Buffalo State Athletics
At some point in every professional athletes career they must come to the realization that it will come to an end.
All the hard work, the sweat, the tears, the getting up at 5 a.m. for practice will soon be over. It’s a tough pill to swallow for any athlete when they finally have to call it the end of a career. For those who don’t have an athletic career retirement for them is when they are 60.
For some who play sports their athletic career could end right after college. How they come to peace with the fact that they won’t be part of a team anymore shows more about their character than if they were to play until they were older.
Moving on from something that have loved all these years is never easy, but being able to channel that energy into something else is just as important.
Buffalo State College women’s hockey defenseman Megan Reukauf knew this day would coming. After 15 years of giving it her all on the ice, Reukauf hockey career will be coming to an end in the next month as the senior is set to graduate with her degree.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow as Reukauf is excited to see what the future holds outside of school, but at the same time wants to lace up the skates one more time with her teammates.
“think it will be bittersweet because, yes, I do love my sleep and my rest and my social life, but I love hockey more than any of that. I've been choosing hockey over these things for the past 15 years of my life and it's weird to think I won't have to anymore,” stated Reukauf. “To be honest, I have been trying to avoid this part of my college hockey career. Four years has gone by faster than I could've ever even imagined, and the thought of it all coming to an end scares me too much. I'm living for the moment right now, not thinking about all of the things I have or have not accomplished in the past four years, but rather what I can continue to do for my team in this last season. I know one day I will have to face it, but for right now, I'm thinking about the future.”
The future is bright for Reukauf on and off the ice. The Depew native has been a steady defenseman for the Bengals for the past four years. She has tailored her game to the collegiate level and shown that she can be a leader on and off the ice when called upon.
The fact that she can adjust her game on the back end is one of the reason why the Bengals have been a solid team over the past couple of seasons. Reukauf is a student of the game. She is someone who will make sure she does the work in the film room to make sure she is ready for that opponent when the weekend arrives.
“Every game is a little different, and you have to learn to adjust to that. Before games each week, our coaches will send out a scouting report of the opposing team for us to read and analyze, and we have to adjust our game to that and prepare,” explained Reukauf. “Some teams will run an aggressive forecheck, powerplay, or penalty kill, while others are more laid back, and we need to know how to react to that. It's all about preparation on and off the ice. It's not just about what you accomplish on the ice, it's about preparing mentally and taking care of your body as well. It's a full time job. I'm giving 100 percent toward this sport no matter what I'm doing and never giving up on any play.” When it comes down to it, Reukauf is a coaches dream. She works hard at her game. She does whatever the coaches ask her to do. Being a defenseman is a thankless job. No one ever notices the defenseman unless they mess up. They aren’t the ones out on the ice scoring all the goals.
They are the ones that are trying to prevent them. Reukauf works hard at her craft. She is a steady influence on the blue line, and someone that the rest of the girls can look up to.
“When it comes down to it, there are way too many things that go into making a player a "good defenseman.” Everyone's style of play is unique. It's hard to judge a good defenseman when everyone plays differently,” stated Reukauf. “Some defenseman like to stay at home and protect the goalie and save some goals, while others like to rush the puck or stick inside the blue line waiting to drop down into the slot for a goal. That doesn't make one better than the other. In general, I think a good defenseman is someone who can read the ice, make clean breakout passes, recognize plays, and has effort.”
Reukauf’s style of play can be traced back to the travel leagues. Women’s hockey is just starting to gain traction in the high school’s in Western New York. Most of the young ladies will apply their trade at the travel level if they want to get noticed.
Reukauf gives credit to the coaches at the Buffalo Regals for making her into the player that she is today. She loved travel hockey and bonding with teammates - it’s what playing sports is all about.
The fact she was able to play college hockey has been an extra bonus for something that she has loved to do since she was a young girl.
“Travel hockey has improved my game so much. I am so thankful for my Regals coach, Tom Ruggiero, for everything he taught me throughout my travel hockey career,” explained Reukauf. “We learned how to be a solid unit on and off the ice (when you have to spend that much time together you learn to like each other whether you want to or not), we did off ice to get stronger, we learned how to brush off "road legs" from having games on the same day as travel, we learned how to take care of our bodies from having to play four games in two days, we always played in the toughest tournaments to push ourselves to be better, we learned to respect our opponents but not fear them, we learned how to handle losses and not to let the wins go to our heads, it's anyone's game any given day, and I could go on and on. But all of these things went into making me into the player I am today, for the better.”
But, all things must come to an end. Even though she isn’t trying to look ahead to the next chapter of her life, Reukauf has put some thought into what she wants to do when it is finally time to hang up the skates for good.
It’s a thought she isn’t trying to think about too much with a few games left in the regular season - but one that has crossed her mind.